Children’s book illustration - how much will it cost?
When I’m asked to illustrate a children’s book, obviously every writer wants to know what it will cost, but giving someone a quote is a lot harder than you might think. Here are some factors which will have an impact on the overall cost, and why.
In the beginning:
Good quality children’s illustrations make a book and can form the foundations of a brand. Many children’s books make more money out of licensing their art work than book sales, for lunch boxes, t-shirts and the rest, so it’s never something which should be knocked out quickly. As a writer, you have a clear idea about the look and style of your characters, so the first thing to do is find a way of communicating that to me.
A mood-board is a collection of images which communicate the style and feel you want for your book. You might want a high gloss, Pixar style digital finish, or you might want a soft, hand drawn watercolour feel. You might want very realistic characters, or you might want much more cartoon like, simple images. The best way to get this across, is to spend an evening collecting together images from books you love, in a style you relate to - that way I will know which style to follow and which to ignore.
This does not mean I will copy another illustrator, but if you like Quentin Blake, then you’re probably going to prefer a much more loose approach to drawing, and I can focus on that for your book. The more information you can give me, both what you like and what you don’t like, the more focused my work will be. If you know how to use it, Pinterest is a great tool for this.
I am happy to create a mood-board for you, this would usually take a day of studio time.
Each character in your book needs to be designed from top to bottom. This is usually the first stage of my work, unless you’ve asked me to design a mood-board for you; and is when I will do a number of sketches to establish the look, detail and style of each character the book needs, along with backgrounds, settings and scenery.
For each character, the more detail you can give me, the better. I recommend you create a character profile for each one, describing what they wear, their mood and how you see them. If you tell me your character wears jeans and a t-shirt, I won’t waste time drawing them wearing a suit and tie!
If they are fantasy creature, then some references are really helpful - are they a bit like a dog crossed with an otter? Or are they a dragon but they wear dungarees and have horns like a cow?
The same goes for backgrounds - some writers want minimal backgrounds, mostly white pages or very simple sweeps of colour - some want full on landscapes with house and villages. If you can provide examples of what you’d like, it really helps focus what I’m doing.
Character development can take between two and five days studio time - if you only have a half a dozen characters on a simple background, it would be two days - if you have a cast of thousands with a world of backgrounds, it’s going to be five days at least!
Half way through character development, I’ll want you to review where I am, so you can approve or ask for corrections; then I’ll be asking you to sign off on each character and background style so we’re both happy to go forward.
Before starting final illustrations, we need to agree a storyboard. This is a diagram with notes detailing what’s to be in each image or page. When creating my own books, I would usually allow a good few days to work this out, but it’s something as a writer you’ve probably done already. It’s important that the storyboard is agreed before the illustrations begin, because if anything has to be corrected later, it always takes longer and will cost extra. It also helps work out how many backgrounds the book needs; there may actually be locations which can be repeated and used again, which means they don’t have to be drawn from scratch each time. You can also plan the size and spread of the illustrations - some may be double page, some single, and if you’re writing a novel for children where there is more text than illustrations, you my want them to be half page, headers or full page. This all has an impact on how long each will take to create - the bigger they are, the longer they take. If I’m creating a storyboard, you need to allow two to three studio days including your time to review and make notes, but this is something you probably want to be in charge of as the writer.
Once all this work has been done, then I can start creating the illustrations themselves. A full colour double page spread with backgrounds will take two days at least; a single page with a single character maybe half a day. Until the storyboard and character design is worked out, it is very hard to give an accurate quote; but for example, ‘The Tiger who came to Tea’ has 26 illustrations, some large, some small - so something similar would take me about three week’s studio time. If your project requires full backgrounds on each page, you could look to almost double that time.
A book is not just the pictures - unless it’s a wordless book of course - so you will need to consider how the words will sit on the page. You may well be more than capable of adding the text using indesign or photoshop yourself, but you may want me to do that so as to produce print ready images. If that’s the case, it will take a further week to add the type, and I will need an approved ‘book’ from you - exactly what words you want on each page, and for you to agree a font. You should have also considered type placement during the storyboard phase, so that text is not lost against complex backgrounds.
I currently charge £85 per studio day for a book project; it is unlikely these will be consecutive days, as I have other projects all the time, and there will be natural pauses as I wait for you to give feedback.
I hope through reading this, you can see how varied an estimate can be - for a half dozen black and white illustrations and a cover for a novel, you should allow around £1200 - if you want a heavily detailed, full colour picture book, you are looking at nearer to £4,500, as this is easily three month’s work.
Payment will always be in stages, each stage is non-refundable, but you can leave the project at any point with no further commitment. However, you cannot pay for the development work and then take my ideas to another illustrator; the licence for the visuals will be transferred to you for use in your book, social media and promotional material when the project is signed off, and is included in the quoted price. If you want to find out more about this, the Association of Illustrators has some helpful information here https://theaoi.com/resources/copyright/what-is-copyright/ , The reverse also applies - I won’t take your story and make money from it by publishing it myself your work and ideas are 100% safe with me and will remain confidential until you’re happy for me to publicise it on my website.